Reviews

Recent projects are summarised below. Please click on the project to read the reviews.

Music From Poland

Mr McFall’s Chamber: Music From Poland, Queen’s Hall, Edinburgh (five stars *)

THERE was a sombre thread running right through this enterprising, illuminating, all-Polish concert from Mr McFall’s Chamber, as violinist Robert McFall himself pointed out. And it wasn’t just in the knowledge that much of the evening’s music had been created in the heady days before Nazi invasion, or under the suffocating strictures of Soviet rule after the war.

No, a vein of deep melancholy seemed to run through the music itself, epitomised in the astonishing concluding Piano Sextet from Penderecki, which the players delivered in a white-hot, fiercely focused account of bristling conviction. They tackled the steadily mounting tension of its densely argued opening movement expertly, and in the long, slow second movement – which sent horn player Alec Frank-Gemmill up into the Queen’s Hall’s balcony for some nicely judged spatial effects – its sad, shifting harmonies ached with poignancy.

The Sextet was nothing short of a revelation – as was, in its own way, the Second Piano Quintet by Grazyna Bacewicz that opened the concert, all wacky switchback shifts, relentless rhythms and devil-may-care experimentalism. And it got just the flamboyant, incisive performance it needed, with pianist Simon Smith in particular relishing the work’s percussive figurations and thudding clusters.

In between came, as McFall quipped, six programmed encores, brief Polish tangos from the 1920s and 30s for which the ensemble transformed into a convincing dance band, suave and nonchalant in its crisp, exquisitely shaped playing, but brimming with heart-on-its-sleeve sadness too. It was as thought-provoking, enlightening and expertly conceived as all the best concerts should be. - DAVID KETTLE, THE SCOTSMAN

María de Buenos Aires CD

Reviewed in Gramophone, The Guardian, Presto Classical, and Music Web International

Solitudes CD 2015

Editor's Choice in Classical Music Magazine, and reviewed in Gramophone by Andrew Mellor, in the Scotsman by Ken Walton, and in The Classical Reviewer.

Celtic Connections 2015

Four stars from The Herald for the Further Distillations programme at this year's Celtic Connections, with special guests

On the Shore of the Mind

A brilliant four star review from Bachtrack for our performance at St John's Church, Edinburgh

Remembered/Imagined

Four star review from The Scotsman for this ambitious creative commissioning project, devised by Creative Producer Amble Skuse.

Viva Tango!

Four star review from the Edinburgh Reporter for our Viva Tango performance at the Jam House, Edinburgh

La Pasionaria CD

We're proud to receive such a positive review from Graham Rickson at theartsdesk.com for our recording with Valentina Montoya Martinez, La Pasionaria.

Freak Out

Four star review from the Scotsman alongside great reviews from The Herald and The Edinburgh Reporter for this completely unusual programme of music including arrangements 1960's rock legends Captain Beefheart and Frank Zappa, plus an epic George Crumb showpiece for French horn and three percussion and two new commissions by Paul Harrison and Martin Kershaw.

La Pasionaria - in concert

Four star review from The Herald for our appearance at Glasgow's West End Festival as part of the Cottier Chamber Project.

Maria de Buenos Aires

Four star reviews from Scotsman,The Annals of the Edinburgh Stage and Bachtrack. Performed at The Queen's Hall in Edinburgh on 16 May 2013 to a packed house, the McFall's strings were joined by a host of special guests: Valentina Montoya Martinez (vocals), Victor Villena (music director and bandoneon), Nicholas Mulroy (tenor), Juanjo Lopez Vidal (El Duende), Cyril Garac (violin), Alison Mitchell (flute), Malcolm MacFarlane (guitar), Phil Alexander (piano), Iain Sandilands (percussion).

Gavin Bryars CD

Given a 5-star review by Norman Lebrecht, this was McFalls' first release on Delphian Records and is a recording of a piece which we commissioned from Gavin Bryars in 2007, 'The Church Closest to the Sea', alongside two other recent works. 'Eight Irish Madrigals' is a setting of poems by Petrarch in a translation by John Synge. 'Epilogue from Wonderlawn' is the final episode from music which Bryars wrote for a dance piece in 1994.

McFalls with Michael Marra

A long-awaited collaboration with Scottish singer Michael Marra took the group from Edinburgh to the Scottish Highlands and beyond for a string of dates in 2010. The group recorded all the gigs and released a live CD on Delphian Records later the same year.

Birds and Beasts CD

Praised by Folk Radio UK as 'one of the most innovative albums of the year', Birds and Beasts has attracted a lot of attention since its release in May 2010 on Delphian Records. A long-planned collaboration with Mr McFall’s Chamber was never realised during Martyn’s short lifetime. Here, Robert McFall has put together a programme of his own sympathetic arrangements of Martyn’s music alongside original works by Fraser Fifield.

Facing North

In December 2010 the group braved the arctic temperatures in Scotland to put on a series of concerts that looked north towards Scandinavia and Russia. Along with pianist Graeme McNaught, this programme showcased music by Olli Mustonen, James Clapperton, Edvard Grieg and Dmitri Shostakovich.

Garland / Kershaw Commissions

Mr McFall’s Chamber were joined in this programme by renowned clarinettist Maximiliano Martín, and jazz musicians Paul Harrison (piano) and Stuart Brown (drums). The concerts featured two world premieres from two of the UK’s most successful jazz composers Tim Garland (Chick Corea band) and Martin Kershaw (Trianglehead, Martin Kershaw Quartet). And in true McFalls style, this eclectic programme is completed with works by Frank Zappa, Astor Piazzolla and Raymond Scott.

Tango

The group has developed a long-standing collaboration with Chilean singer Valentina Montoya Martinez, and in 2010 toured a programme of her own songs, along with works by Piazzolla, across Scotland. McFalls was joined on this occasion by two tango players of world renown - bandoneon player Victor Villena and violinst Cyril Garac, both of Quinteto el Después in Paris.

A fiennes.org site

Mr McFall’s Chamber is a registered charity: SC028348

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